03
May
09

Purge Your Heart Out: The Veils’ Sun Gangs

the-veils-sun-gangs

Though The Veils’ Sun Gangs released back on April 7, it took me some time to process and to write my thoughts. I’ve been a Veils fan for quite some time now, absolutely loving their debut, The Runaway Found, and their follow-up, Nux Vomica, so Sun Gangs was in my top five anticipated releases this year. On first listen, I was a little disappointed because the songs weren’t readily memorable or as seemingly powerful as those on their sophomore release, which had broken away from the slower gentleness of their debut. Upon first listen, Sun Gangs somehow wasn’t what I was expecting; after giving it a few more proper listens, I realized it was just as vulnerable, honest and beautiful as Nux Vomica, but that it shed the gritty immediacy and quiet magic and replaced it with a spectrum spanning epic struggle and bittersweet surrender. Son of former XTC keyboardist Barry Andrews, Finn Andrews continues to be one of the most captivating songwriters and vocalists I’ve ever encountered with the ethereal physical beauty to match. His voice, which quavers with a richness that resonates in the pit of your stomach, doesn’t sound like Nick Cave, but evokes the very same spiritual intensity – in both cases, I feel like I’ve been preached at with fire and brimstone and purged of the blackest sins after listening to them sing. I get chills every time Andrews sings lines like “my love,” which he does more often than you would expect. As the cover art suggests, this album examines affairs of a troubled heart in all of their bloody glory while attempting to understand their significance in the grand scheme of the universe, a venue that seems to court chaotic futility despite our efforts to make meaning.

The album kicks off with Sit Down By the Fire, which provides a thrilling feeling of redemptive power despite its world-weary tone; the drums roll like thunder while the driving guitars push forward and gather like banks of clouds. Lyrics like “drunk on the sadness of a universe unmanned,” “complicated beauty of a river run dry,” and “there ain’t no way to get what I want” point to an exhaustion from living amidst a disordered world and a need to just stop and sit down by the primeval comfort of fire. Or perhaps to step back and watch the burning ruin of the Earth’s embers. The style shifts for the title track as plaintive piano takes over, backed by a primordial pulse. As Andrews’ vocals break like the puncturing of a particularly strong artery, he sings “where I am going you can’t save me,” and as the song progresses, he retreats into himself like the last stars fading from the morning sky. The velocity of Sit Down By the Fire returns for The Letter, which pairs a high, clear register like bells with a barrage of rolling drums; they combine to eviscerate you with serrated guitars and pummel you in the chest like grief-addled fists. Andrews’ vocals attain a particularly sensuous quality on this track as he sings of rueful loss and commands “go wash your heart in the river until the water runs clear.” This is followed by one of the tracks that stands out the most, stylistically, Killed By The Boom. It is hugely distorted, messy, and angular while the vocals are wild, desperate and as taut as barbed wire. In a way, Andrews sounds like Jack White at his most unhinged and feral as he recounts a vivid narrative of a hapless character who slips out of his life without reaching any kind of potential and without anything to remember him by:

He stared at the skyline with a look of avarice
he smelled the diesel of a passing train
he fell with both hands still in his pockets
killed by the boom and washed away…

No recognition by the state nor senate
no epitaph to sing aloud his sweet name
no fourteen stations and the nineteenth sonnet
he weren’t no wealthy man but he was a man all the same

The rasping intensity of the song rages against the ultimately useless tragedy and our pitiful expectations of life and death. Reining everything in with a hollow drum and minimal strings, It Hits Deep showcases Andrews’ voice in all its quivering beauty. Electric guitars eventually begin buzzing through the song like dark clouds of wasps while solitude pumps through; this track becomes the sound of coming to terms as a troubled soul sings himself to an everlasting slumber.

The second half of the record smashes into your face with Three Sisters, a narrative worthy of Nick Cave and his eerie Old South tendencies. The fast, explosive syncopation creates a raging inferno of sound as the song’s narrator describes the burning of three sisters by the muddy river side. The ever-present theme of futility and waste comes through with the line “all this for nothing.” Switching direction again, The House She Lived In is a plinking piano, 50s style ballad while Andrews’ crooning carries hints of Rufus Wainwright. It tells the story of the death of an unnamed woman and the loss is made even more tragic in the lines “I know that it was me alone she loved/though I still have nothing to show for it” and “it all went wrong, but I wish you would’ve stayed with me”; the song emulates the helpless stance of watching the wreckage of another. Solemn bass and ride cymbal take over for the hymnal-sounding Scarecrow. The mysterious lines “scarecrow caught in my mind, scarecrow not made for these times” along with the scarecrow imagery create an interesting, complex piece. There’s almost a yearning in this song to be made of straw:

Death cold pecked bare
red collar bled white
no black heart there
no bark and no bite

A straw man cannot live, but nor can he bleed and hurt or struggle with questions of ethics and morality. Then one of my favourite tracks on the album, Larkspur, begins its haunting, harrowing eight and a half minutes. Andrews’ tortured vocals careen over the galloping single acoustic guitar before the bass drum comes in like clouds drawing in or the gathering of a stampede of wild horses. The rising sound envelops the narrator as though his ragged voice is calling from the eye of a tornado; the song swallows him whole as the music comes down, but as he repeats the line “pull his hand from the earth,” he whips the song up into a psychotic, anguished frenzy again. While the narrator fights against unseen demons and repeats “something got a hold on me,” you feel him convulse and lose his grip on himself, passing the reins of his heart strings to someone or something else. Perhaps Andrews is also referencing the poisonous nature of the larkspur plant, which can be read in a common cowboy adage that states ” if you rode the range all day, and were tired of ridin’, eat a fistful of larkspur, and you won’t be tired anymore.” After the turmoil of Larkspur, the final track, Begin Again, feels like a reprieve. Its gentle, melodic piano recalls Advice For Young Mothers To Be from Nux Vomica, and the narrator succumbs to the raging nonsense of the world and learns to love the bitter pain. The last sentiment of the record is “We’re all just following the light of long-dead stars.”

How do we cope with the machinations of a universe we will never hope to understand? Especially when we have brains that convince us we’re more than mere animal, that we should have an immortal soul, or at the very least, a reason for living. And that the organ that pumps our life-giving blood should be the seat of our emotions in an effort to explain our own consciousness. These are the thoughts I have while listening to this album, which indicates that Andrews’ writing is still brilliant and that his delivery is still impeccable. Ultimately, Sun Gangs takes the darkest parts of Nux Vomica and expands upon them; the poison of the strychnine tree is exchanged for the toxicity of the delphinium, or larkspur. Purge your heart out.

The House She Lived In – The Veils

Larkspur – The Veils

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3 Responses to “Purge Your Heart Out: The Veils’ Sun Gangs”


  1. 1 jc
    May 4, 2009 at 6:42 am

    I’m not so good at keeping up with new bands anymore, so I rely on recommendations like this to try things out. Something to buy and take on holiday and give it a listen…..

    All I knew beforehand was that they did a cracking cover of Scritti Politti’s Lions After Slumber.

  2. 2 RichARD
    November 29, 2009 at 2:23 am

    Very good review! Really needs to be experienced live


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The only certain thing that is left about me

There is no part of my body that has not been used

Pity or pain, to show displeasure's shame

Everyone I've loved or hated always seems to leave

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So I turned myself to face me

But I've never caught a glimpse

Of how the others must see the faker

I'm much too fast to take that test

The Smiths Queen is Dead

A dreaded sunny day

So let's go where we're happy

And I meet you at the cemetry gates

Oh, Keats and Yeats are on your side

A dreaded sunny day

So let's go where we're wanted

And I meet you at the cemetry gates

Keats and Yeats are on your side

But you lose 'cause weird lover Wilde is on mine

The Clash London Calling

When they kick at your front door

How you gonna come?

With your hands on your head

Or on the trigger of your gun

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Charles Windsor, who's at the door

At such an hour, who's at the door

In the back of an old green Cortina

You're on your way to the guillotine

Here the rabble comes

The kind you hoped were dead

They've come to chop, to chop off your head

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Then you came with your breezeblocks

Smashing up my face like a bus-stop

You think you're giving

But you're taking my life away

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Won't someone give me more fun?

(and the skin flies all around us)

We kiss in his room to a popular tune

Oh, real drowners

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Don't walk away

In silence

See the danger

Always danger

Endless talking

Life rebuilding

Don't walk away

Walk in silence

Don't turn away in silence

Your confusion

My illusion

Worn like a mask of self-hate

Confronts and then dies

Don't walk away

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You don't want to hurt me

But see how deep the bullet lies

Unaware I'm tearing you asunder

Oh there is thunder in our hearts

Is there so much hate for the ones we love

Tell me we both matter don't we

The Associates Affectionate

I don't know whether

To over or under estimate you

Whether to over or under estimate you

For when I come over

You then put me under

Personal taste is a matter of gender

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I wake at dusk to go alone without a light

To the unknown

I want this night inside of me

I want to feel

I want this speeding

I want that speeding

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You'll never live like common people

You'll never do what common people do

You'll never fail like common people

You'll never watch your life slide out of view

And dance and drink and screw

Because there's nothing else to do

Vanilla Swingers

All I have is words, words that don't obtain

And I feel I'm a stain on your horizon

So I stay away - it's easier that way

And there won't be no-one I need to rely on

Is it him, is it me

Or is there something only I can see

How did I get here, why do we blow around like straw dogs on the breeze

I'm a special one, what they used to say

But I've to stay on, finish levels-A

You don't need exams when you've read John Gray

The Indelicates American Demo

And nobody ever comes alive

And the journalists clamour round glamour like flies

And boys who should know better grin and get high

With fat men who once met the MC5

And no one discusses what they don't understand

And no one does anything to harm the brand

And this gift is an illusion, this isn't hard

Absolutely anyone can play the fucking guitar

JAMC Darklands

And we tried so hard

And we looked so good

And we lived our lives in black

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Plucked her eyebrows on the way

Shaved her leg and then he was a she

She says, hey babe,

Take a walk on the wild side

Said, hey honey, take a walk on the wild side

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Hide on the promenade

Etch a postcard:

How I dearly wish I was not here

In the seaside town...that they forgot to bomb

Come, come, come - nuclear bomb

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Back when we were kids

We would always know when to stop

And now all the good kids are messing up

Nobody has gained or accomplished anything

Wire Pink Flag

Prices have risen since the government fell

Casualties increase as the enemy shell

The climate's unhealthy, flies and rats thrive

And sooner or later the end will arrive

This is your correspondent, running out of tape

Gunfire's increasing, looting, burning, rape

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Well, maybe there's a god above

But all I've ever learned from love

Was how to shoot somebody who outdrew you

It's not a cry that you hear at night

It's not somebody who's seen the light

It's a cold and it's a broken hallelujah

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And what costume shall the poor girl wear

To all tomorrow's parties

For Thursday's child is Sunday's clown

For whom none will go mourning

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My body is your body

I won't tell anybody

If you want to use my body

Go for it

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Oh it's opening time

Down on Fascination Street

So let's cut the conversation

And get out for a bit

Because I feel it all fading and paling

And I'm begging

To drag you down with me

Mansun Six

And you see, I kind of shivered to conformity

Did you see the way I cowered to authority

You see, my life, it's a series of compromises anyway

It's a sham, and I'm conditioned to accept it all, you see

Japan Gentlemen

Take in the country air, you'll never win

Gentlemen take polaroids

They fall in love, they fall in love

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We just want to emote til we're dead

I know we suffer for fashion

Or whatever

We don't want these days to ever end

We just want to emasculate them forever

Forever, forever

Pretty sirens don't go flat

It's not supposed to happen like that

Longpigs The Sun

There's no perfume I can buy

Make me smell like myself

So I put on perfume

To make me smell like someone else

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Calvin Harris I Created Disco

I got love for you if you were born in the 80's, the 80's

I've got hugs for you if you were born in the 80's, the 80's

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Douse himself with cheap perfume

Eyeholes in a paper bag

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Gotta help him find a wife

We're a couple, when our bodies double

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Savaged beauty life

Falling here from grace

Sister feeling call

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Bloc Party Silent Alarm

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Empty

Running on

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He doesn't like chocolate

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There's a fist fight brewin' at my house, my house

Because the jocks can't...get in the door

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I just can't help believing

Though believing sees me cursed

Stars Set Yourself

I am trying to say

What I want to say

Without having to say "I love you"

Josef K Entomology

It took 10 years to realise why the angels start to cry

When you go home down the main

Your happy smile

Your funny name

Cocteau Twins Bluebell

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Hair kisses 'n' hair architecture

Yes, she's a beautiful brunette angel from heaven with her hairagami set

Hair kisses 'n' hair architecture

Augment a beautiful brunette

New Order Power Corruption

How does it feel

To treat me like you do

When you've laid your hands upon me

And told me who you are

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You must let her go

She's not crying

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Baiting

Feeling like I'm waiting

Modern times

Valentines

Hating

Hating to distraction

Just leave them alone

Whipcrack

Girls in the back

Girls in the back

Puressence Don't Forget

They say come back to earth and start getting real, yeah

I say come back to earth and start getting real

I know I can't

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So I walk right up to you

And you walk all over me

And I ask you what you want

And you tell me what you need

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The problem of leisure

What to do for pleasure

Ideal love a new purchase

A market of the senses

Dream of the perfect life

Economic circumstances

The body is good business

Sell out, maintain the interest

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Sitting in my armchair thinking again and again and again

Going round in a circle I can't get out

Then I look around thinking day and night and day

Then you look around - there must be some explanation

And the tension builds

Psychdedelic Furs

India, India

You're my love song

India, you're my love song

In the flowers

You can have me in the flowers

We will dance alone

And live our useless lives

Ladytron Light Magic

They only want you when you're seventeen

When you're twenty-one

You're no fun

They take a polaroid and let you go

Say they'll let you know

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No consolation prizes

Spit out your lies and chewing gum

Cut off your hair yeah that's it!

If you look like that I swear I'm gonna love you more

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All the neighbors are startin' up a fire

Burning all the old folks, the witches and the liars.

My eyes are covered by the hands of my unborn kids

But my heart keeps watchin' through the skin of my eyelids

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Prince charming

Prince charming

Ridicule is nothing to be scared of

Don't you ever, don't you ever

Stop being dandy, showing me you're handsome


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